Uke Tunes

Uke-ifying my favourite songs


Don’t Let It Trouble Your Mind – Dolly Parton / Rhiannon Giddens

giddens-tomorrow-is-my-turnI only came across Rhiannon Giddens about a month ago, following one of those “customers who brought x also brought y” trails on Amazon. And she was something of a revelation. Rhiannon is better know – if she is known at all – as singer, violinist and banjo player in old-time American music revivalists Carolina Chocolate Drops (and isn’t the world a better place knowing there is a band called Carolina Chocolate Drops in it!). Classically trained (she studied opera), she has just released her debut solo album, Tomorrow Is My Turn, which acts as a show-case for a hugely versatile talent, mixing country, gospel, jazz, blues, chanson and more.


One of those is this Dolly Parton song. The opener from Dolly’s 1969 album, In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad),  this was recorded during the time she was partnering with Porter Wagoner, and before she had really established herself as a solo artist. One thing it does is affirm, again, the often over-looked song-writing ability of Dolly. In all the country show-biz caricature and cartoon quality that has grown up around Dolly, people often ignore what a great songwriter she is. The author of classics like Jolene, Love Is Like A Butterfly and I Will Always Love You (the original is a breath of fresh air of you’re only familiar with the Whitney Houston version). Don’t Let It Trouble Your Mind is not as well known as any of those, in fact it is relatively obscure, and yet it bears all the hallmarks of a classic, whether in the original by Dolly, or in the excellent cover by Rhiannon.

So here’ the songsheet. As a country song, there’s nothing too complicated here, although the timing is sometimes a little unexpected. The song sheet includes the song in two keys – the first (C) a little easier to play and (for me) to sing, the second (Bb) consistent with the originals by both Dolly Parton and Rhiannon Giddens.



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Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head


Probably the last thing the ukulele world needs now is another songsheet for Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head. But that’s what it’s going to get! This isn’t in any way an attempt to say that all the others are rubbish and that this is definitive or better. It’s just that when I was looking around I couldn’t find one that (a) was clear, (b) sounded right, and (c) was complete. So this sheet is an amalgam of a number of sources (particular this one), and gives me a version that I’m happy with.

This is a song from the awesome songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. During the 1960s and 70s they were responsible for a slew of sophisticated classic pop songs – songs such as I Say A Little Prayer, Walk On By, Close To You,  The Look Of Love, Do You Know The Way To San Jose, Anyone Who Had A Heart, Alfie, Always Something There To Remind Me. The list is endless. “Raindrops” was famously included in the film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” in a beautiful dreamy scene involving a bicycle. Recorded by BJ Thomas, the song deservedly won an Oscar for best original song, and has gone on to be covered numerous times since.

So here’s the songsheet. It’s just chords and lyrics, which follow the BJ Thomas recording. As with all Bacharach songs, the timing is sometimes a little tricky, so you’ll need to play around with that and get the feel of it from the original recording. Note that I didn’t bother to include the instrumental outro section of the song, which is lovely but (a) a little tricky and (b) not ideally suited to solo uke! Enjoy!

P.S. If you want something a bit more challenging, there’s a great instrumental tab version of the song here, along with demo video. Well worth giving a go.


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Venus – Bananarama / Shocking Blue


There hasn’t been enough Dutch bubblegum-inspired 80s disco on this site of late, so here’s one to break that drought.

Venus was a song written by Robbie van Leeuwen, guitarist, sitarist and lead song-writer with the 60s/70s Dutch band Shocking Blue (another song of van Leeuwen / Shocking Blue, Love Buzz, was later covered by Nirvana on their Bleach album). The song was a huge global hit around 1970, reaching number 1 in 5 countries including the USA – the first dutch song to do so. Their are claims that the song was more-than-a-little inspired by “The Banjo Song” from US folk-group The Big 3, which included a pre-Mamas and Papas Cass Elliot. That is something that has never been pursued by The Big 3, but you can judged for yourself by taking a listen here. There’s certainly more than a little similarity!

Despite the huge success of the original version of the song, it now seems more associated in most people’s minds with the Bananarama cover version from 1986. Venus was their first collaboration with the Stock, Aitken and Waterman team, and it’s huge world-wide success (number one in eight countries, including the US) led to a long and fruitful relationship between the band and the production team.

And so here’s the song sheet. It’s a simple song, based around a recurring chord sequence. For opening little flourish (the B7sus4) listen to the intro to the Bananarama version to get the rhythm. I’ve also thrown in the little riff that fills the gap between the verse and the chorus – the riff itself is quite straightforward, although fitting it in and keeping going is sometimes a little tricky. Enjoy!